Country Report on Terrorism 2016 - Chapter 2 - Tajikistan

Overview: The Government of Tajikistan remained focused on countering violent extremism, monitoring the possible return of Tajik foreign terrorist fighters, and addressing the potential threat to the country posed by instability in northern Afghanistan. According to open-source reporting, approximately 1,000 Tajik citizens have joined ISIS and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. With growing concern that terrorist groups in Afghanistan may be able to cross porous border areas into Tajikistan – particularly with the drawdown of U.S. troops – the government has attempted to increase its military and law enforcement capacity to conduct tactical operations. As part of this effort, the government has sought assistance from the United States, as well as other partners. Tajik government efforts to strengthen its responses to terrorism and radicalization in Tajikistan led to the adoption in 2016 of a comprehensive strategy to counter violent extremism.

In November, four men pled guilty to charges that they intended to blow up police and security buildings and hoist an ISIS flag. The men were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 12 to 15 years.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Tajik government prosecutes terrorists under the Laws on Combating Terrorism, Anti-Money Laundering, Currency Regulation, Notary, and the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan. In 2016, Tajikistan introduced amendments to the penal code criminalizing public support of terrorism and “extremist” activities. Under the amendments, citizens who publicly urge terrorist acts or who publicly justify terrorist activities face jail terms of between five and 10 years. The punishment increases to 10 to 15 years in jail for those who make such public statements of incitement or support through mass media.

A slumping economy and long-standing corruption reduced Tajikistan’s resources to interdict possible terrorists. Tajikistan has established a coordinating headquarters for law-enforcement bodies countering terrorism and “extremism,” but interagency cooperation and information sharing capabilities remained limited.

Tajikistan continued to make progress in improving border security with bilateral and multilateral assistance, although effectively policing the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border remained a difficult task requiring more resources and capabilities than were available to the Tajik government. As a result, there were periodic reports of illegal border crossings, usually by drug smugglers. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime, in conjunction with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Department of State, provided interdiction-related training to Tajikistan (and Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, The Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan) in support of the Border Liaison Office program. A number of U.S. Central Command programs continue to provide material support, training, and infrastructure development assistance to Tajik security forces focused on border security, counter-narcotics, and counterterrorism. The State Department’s Export Control and Related Border Security Program provided both training and material support related to border control, contraband interdiction, and counter-proliferation capability to Tajikistan.

The Government of Tajikistan made a number of terrorism-related arrests during the course of the year. According to the prosecutor-general, 31 citizens were detained while attempting to leave the country to join ISIS, and criminal proceedings were opened against 166 Tajiks alleged to have fought with the group. The government claimed that most Tajiks who have joined ISIS were radicalized abroad, usually in Russia. Human rights organizations alleged that the government in some instances used terrorism charges as a pretext to target independent voices, including dissidents living abroad.

Tajik law enforcement officers continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, receiving capacity-building training in counterterrorism-focused skill sets.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Tajikistan is a member of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Tajikistan’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Monitoring Department (FMD), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Between 2013 and 2016, the number of entities reporting to the FMD increased significantly. Still, the FMD’s capacity to conduct prompt and thorough analyses of reported transactions is limited due to difficulties in accessing relevant government authorities’ databases, which would allow for a comprehensive analysis.

Terrorist financing is criminalized by Tajikistan’s Law on Anti-Money Laundering and Anti‑Terrorist financing, but there has not been a significant number of prosecutions or convictions of terrorist financing cases reported by Tajikistan in recent years. Tajikistan has made improvements in implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1373 and the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, as financial institutions are legally mandated to freeze funds of individuals and entities on UN sanctions lists, as well as domestic designations lists without delay.

In 2016, Tajikistan provided information to the EAG on steps it took to develop national anti‑money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation and to conduct a national risk assessment, as part of the country’s efforts to improve its AML/CFT framework in line with FATF standards.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Countering Violent Extremism: In 2016, the Tajik government adopted a national strategy to counter violent extremism and terrorism. The strategy replaced an earlier version, which did not address foreign terrorist fighters or the use of social media. The strategy was introduced at the end of 2016, after a lengthy interagency drafting process. Under the strategy, the prosecutor-general must provide the president with a yearly report on the implementation of the strategy. Some civil society groups have voiced concern that the strategy will be used as a tool to further limit political expression in Tajikistan, and that the strategy’s heavy focus on law enforcement ignores the drivers of violent extremism.

Tajikistan’s countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts have focused heavily on religious “extremism”; the government tightly controls religious expression. A nascent public-messaging program exists, including government efforts to use reintegrated violent extremists to speak out publicly against terrorist groups. Imams from Tajikistan have also traveled abroad to speak to Tajik migrants in Kazakhstan and Russia about the dangers of radical religious thought. The Government of Tajikistan has expressed its readiness to cooperate with international partners on CVE. During 2016, government officials participated in a number of seminars and workshops on CVE and terrorism conducted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Nevertheless, the government’s prevention efforts center primarily on law enforcement action and the detention and prosecution of “extremist” recruiters and proselytizers.

Regional and International Cooperation: Tajikistan is a member of the OSCE, where it focuses on border security issues, and it is also a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Additionally, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan announced their intention in August 2016 to build a joint counterterrorism center in Tajikistan. In October, Tajikistan and China conducted a week-long joint counterterrorism exercise near the border with Afghanistan. Joint Tajik-Russian counterterrorism exercises were held in Tajikistan on three separate occasions in 2016. In October, member states of the SCO held “Cooperation 2016,” a joint counterterrorism drill.